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PO Box 27G, Nairobi, Kenya

November 1983 issue


D P Finch, theologian, polyglot, and philology activist has died in hospital in Addis Ababa at the age of 100.

Disciple of Fr Johann Schleyer, he first gained notoriety in 1914 as result of paternity and assault suits filed against him in Litovsk. Amidst headlines of  'Celibate Papist Commits Bastardy' and 'Romanist Witchcraft-Abortion' in the Russian Orthodox press, the wife of a language-designer in competition with Schleyer attributed a 'preternatural conception and miscarriage' in 1913 to Finch`s efforts to humiliate her husband on behalf of Volapük's recently deseased Datuval. Fr Finch, having entered the Society of Jesus two years earlier, won the case after a Mohammedan servant of many years standing testified that the only thing 'ever conceived in Madame's company' had been a list of romanised Quranic terms for use by the Polish Tatars. Summoned to the Vatican by the Office for Propagation of the Faith to account for himself, Fr Finch was absolved by arguing that 'in the case of speakers of the Slavic tongues, history has shown that the Latin alphabet is a bridge, which, once crossed, finds its far end in the bosom of Mother Church'.

Defrocked in 1936 after having stabbed Frs Lamasse (s.j.) and Jasmin (s.j.) in the chest and left eye respectively during a quarrel concerning their Romanisation Interdialectique, which latter was characterised by Fr Finch as '... an unsightly and unpronounceable disaster ... a non-numeric telegraph code for the sinograms ... a symptom of Gallic cerebrealism ... sure to increase compensatory support not only for the chaos of atheist brigandry`s multi-dialect latinisations but also for the Protestant literati's archolectal romanisation ... evidence of over attachment to spicy food ill befitting members of our Order ...', etc., he proceeded in contrition to London where he burned the plates to his soon to be published series of Hugo`s Self-Tutors, all of which used his Pan-Hannic Latinisation -- a system he described as 'elastic readings of inter-topolectic cognates spelled as homographs'. With Hugo`s Self-Tutor in the Boreo-Archolect of Hannish and Addenda of Srandong, Sransei and Xrômsei Lexical Variations, an Inter-Topophonal Spelling; Hugo`s Self-Tutor in the Quatrafluvian of Dhrongkìng; Hugo`s Self-Tutor in Wuvian Hannish as spoken in Xhrânghâi, a Unigraphy in Roman Character; Hugo`s Self-Tutor in Austrominian (Based on the Hheâmen Normolect) as well as Indian Vina and Hanlandic Kgim: A Case of Divergent Scales destroyed, sued by Hugo`s for breach of contract and arson, hounded by the polyglot-musicologist who had completed each book`s accompanying recording, Mr Finch fled to Ethiopia.

According to Miriam Gozde, Mr Finch`s secretary, who had remained at bedside throughout, Mr Finch had been suffering alternating periods of coma and delirium during his three weeks in hospital. She stated that he had recently been upset when news of Y R Chao`s General Chinese reached him many after publication. Mr Finch felt that the author had not only plagiarised his system, but, out of vengeance, had plagiarised it badly, deliberately using preposterous and unsightly letter-combinations in place of his own well ordered system. Miss Gozde opined that much of Mr Finch`s delirium concerned the respective merits of Gaelic eclipsis, the letter 'h', and doubled consonants in indicating deep-structural voiced initials. She admitted to having taken copious notes of the delirium and could not discount the possibility of reconstructing salient portions of his long renounced project.

Testimonial to his life-long concerns with both language and religion, Mr Finch leaves a number of polemical manuscripts, including  Pük e Diab (1915), Lancelot Hogben's Betrayal of the Peano Principle (1946), and The Ignored Compliment [sic] (1981). The lattermost begins from 'the indisputable fact that Hinduism's name for itself is none other than sanatana dharma', argues that 'Lucifer was cast from Heaven not as one but as Triad', that 'the Hindu trinity, its hideous incarnations, its claim to include all other religions, its worship of carnality', and Sanskrit`s 'apotheosis of certain vowels' all 'constitute evidence of the Dark One`s complot [sic] to swallow the world'. In connection with such views, there is also the first paragraph of a planned leaflet in Pali titled Namo Mara?!, and an unfinished pamphlet in Arabic, BJP: Hezbo-Shaitan!, in which he calls for Islamo-Christian unity against Hinduism's 'clear and evident Satanism'.


Editor`s note: Shortly after the above dispatch from our Addis Ababa correspondent was circulated in mimeograph form in Nairobi, an anonymous letter consisting of two pages of photocopy was received at this office. At the top of each page is typewritten the words 'Finch Diary'. The photocopied contents are in long-hand. According to a handwriting specialist consulted by the Editorial Committee, they are written with the left hand of a right-handed male. As Miss Gozde has declined to comment in any way upon the contents or source of this letter, the Editorial Committee has decided to break with normal policy and publish it in full:

1 Oct 1949
One day Polat insists that the tetragraph for Ddig was an affront; the next day he`s just as adamant that it was respectful recognition of his cogenitors` wolf-totem. One day he dreams of converting his Turks and Mongols 'back' to nestorianism, two days later it`s manicheanism; on the fifth day he`s rabidly spewing some obscure form of marxism learned from Sylvia, and a week later he`s a disciple of Von Mises and Bastiat. At every change he remembers almost nothing of the previous disposition and reacts with indignation to its mention.

10 Oct 1949
Sylvia has had a note passed to me via one of the convent`s porters saying that our visitor walked into one of her classes without invitation and begun instructing her pupils in how English would now sound if the Saxons had gone aground on Sakhalin Island. She speaks of his 'temerity and cheek in making an Esperanto class the forum for propagating impractical ideas'.

Since she has taken the initiative, I`ve risked sending her a note in return, asking if it wouldn`t be for the best in view of her worries about [words scratched out] and [words scratched out] to agree to let the Polats take them to the Orient when they depart in a few days. Aside from eliminating the fear of scandal, it would also be a great solace to Mrs. Polat.

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